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Ultra HD : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: May 7th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 1952

High Noon - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

4K UHD Review By: Matthew Hartman
One of the greatest Westerns of all time, Fred Zinnemann’s Oscar-winning High Noon travels the dusty trail to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber Studio Classics. Oscar-winner Gary Cooper lights up the screen as a sheriff standing alone against the worst killers around as Grace Kelly brightens the picture in one of her earliest roles. KLSC takes the excellent previous restoration and gussies it up in 2160p Dolby Vision, the same great audio, and a nice assortment of new and archival extra features. Highly Recommended

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Video Resolution/Codec:
2160p HEVC/H.265 - Dolby Vision HDR / HDR10
Length:
85
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.37:1
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Release Date:
May 7th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

What more can be said about a genuine classic like High Noon? Not only is High Noon one of the best pieces of Hollywood filmmaking, but it’s also one of the greatest Westerns ever committed to celluloid. Now, the irony of my saying that is I am also a huge fan of the genre-defining Howard Hawks production Rio Bravo. Hawks and John Wayne both hated High Noon (albeit for very different reasons), and their dislike spurred their production as a thematic answer to Zinnemann’s Oscar-winning offering. To that end, it’s funny to me that both films feature scores from legendary composer Dimitri Tiomkin!

Our story opens with Lee Van Cleef in this first (albeit entirely silent) screen role as Jack Colby. He and his two pals ride into the peaceful town of Hadleyville waiting for the return of the their recently released killer Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald). Why Hadleyville? That’s where Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is, the man who sent Miller to prison for murder. Only on this day, Will is to be married to the beautiful Quaker Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly) and ride off to their new life away from guns and killing. But when news of Frank’s imminent return hits him, Will is compelled to stay on and see his job through the day. But without any deputies to back his play, Will must ask any man willing to stand in his corner or face the toughest killer single-handedly. 

Of which one is better, High Noon vs Rio Bravo, I have no opinion there. While they’re both amazing Westerns and they share similar themes, they’re vastly different films to me - enough so that I think comparing them is a waste of time. It’s impossible to watch Gary Cooper as Will Kane, our reluctant hero, and not feel something for the guy. I’ve never stood on the ground that he’s a coward trying to pass responsibility by recruiting deputies or asking for help. After all, he came back when he could have ridden away and left his town to endure the carnage! He just wanted to do the right thing and felt he needed help with the job. But when help doesn’t come he doesn’t shirk, he still does the job he was hired to do and sees justice delivered. 

But if one is going to look at High Noon and Rio Bravo, you have to face that big elephant in the room. I think what I lament the most about both films is the political bull$#!t surrounding them. While I’m a fan of the man’s work, I can’t ignore that John Wayne had issues that don’t color his legacy positively. I get Hawks not liking aspects of the story and wanting to offer his own take on the plot idea, that makes sense to me. But Wayne’s vitriolic motivations toward certain creatives (namely writer Carl Foreman) and political feelings about the film were beyond reason. Especially when you look at his speech accepting the Best Actor Oscar on Cooper’s behalf, it always felt hypocritical. But then we’re all hypocrites sometimes, so who am I to judge? 

Howland Chamberlain who played the smarmy hotel clerk went uncredited and was also Blacklisted unable to work for the next 27 years. At the same time, co-star Lloyd Bridges had just crawled out from under a period of being “graylisted” for his association with the Actor’s Laboratory Theater. The irony of the political battle in this film is the two sides never agreed on it. While Wayne and other conservatives hated it for its allegory about blacklisting and viewed it as anti-American, the actual commies viewed it as too pro-individual. 

Excluding all politics, High Noon is just damn good filmmaking. Fred Zinnemann’s direction with Carl Foreman’s script is dynamite suspense on the screen. Early on, the film establishes the ticking clock arrival of killer Frank Miller and it hits the mark almost to the second. I loved how they kept reminding the audience that time was running out. First, you get a quick glimpse, but then we get more frequent views letting us know the hour is late and Will is getting into a tight spot. I also love that each person he asks for help turns him down in their own meaningful way. The most tragic is an amazing scene from Lon Chaney Jr. as the old retired former Sheriff Martin. He was at least five years younger than Cooper, but thanks to rampant Alcoholism and great makeup, he looks old and tired, and he delivers one of the best speeches in the film. 

Equally impressive is Katy Jurado in her first American film production. Already a veteran of several Mexican productions (She’d later star in the very entertaining 3-D feature Sword of Granada co-starring future Joker actor Cesar Romero), Katy makes a wonderful turn as Helen Ramirez. We never really get to know the full history between her, Frank Miller, and Will Kane, but it’s enough that she can’t stay to see either man die. Grace Kelly in one of her earliest roles is a lovely Amy Fowler. She might appear too young for Cooper (she was about 27 years younger), but she holds her own with a meaningful performance offering a glimmer of the star she’d soon become. The film as a whole is filled with amazing character actors. In addition to the silent-but-deadly Lee Van Cleef, you’ll spot the likes of Harry Morgan of M*A*S*H and Dragnet fame, Sheb Wooley, Robert Wilke, Stagecoach’s Thomas Mitchell, John Douchette, and a particularly memorable uncredited appearance from wild-eyed genre stalwart Jack Elam. 

Now when you’re done watching High Noon, double feature it with Peter Hyams’ Outland starring Sean Connery for a damned entertaining sci-fi remake! 

Now, I honestly didn’t intend to write a full review of High Noon and intended to pass it off to David Krauss’ insightful words from 2016. So for a more eloquent look at the film, read David’s Olive Signature High Noon Blu-ray Review 

Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
High-Noon finally joins its antithetical sibling Rio Bravo on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray thanks to a new two-disc set from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The 4K of the film is pressed on a BD-66 disc with a Region A BD-50 serving up the 1080p version with the bulk of the bonus features. Both discs are housed in a black two-disc case with reversible insert art offering two different views than the stylish slipcover. The discs load to a static image main menus with standard navigation options.

Video Review

Ranking:

High Noon has come around the bend on Blu-ray a couple of times over the years, the first in 2012, the second in 2016 from Olive Films after undergoing an excellent 4K restoration. Now we come to the first 4K UHD Dolby Vision release. Flipping between Olive’s 2016 Signature disc and this new one, I’m convinced the same restored master was used, only now uncompressed with HDR but slightly trimmed along the edges. I didn’t immediately notice it but once I got heavy into some disc flipping I noticed that the image on the KLSC 4K and Blu-ray appeared to have some information along the right and left side trimmed. It’s not a lot and like I said, I barely noticed it at first. And it’s not a framing issue as there isn’t a shift in character position or anything like that. I don’t feel like it impacted the viewing experience, but it’s something of note. 

Now overall I’m very pleased with how High Noon transitions to 4K, but I also wouldn’t chalk it up as a leaps and bounds improvement either. That 2016 Olive disc was already excellent so what we get here is simple refinements on an already great product. Film grain is apparent and nicely rendered; in some instances notably tighter looking and better resolved than the older Blu-ray. Details can also look quite a bit sharper with cleaner fine lines. But at the same time, shots that were soft before, are noticeably so now. The opening with the optical effects credits still appears a bit smeary but it was that way too for the Olive disc. Once that opening is out of the way the quality greatly improves. Bitrate remains nice and high with strong peaks into the 90mbs range and beyond. 

The Dolby Vision HDR grade is quite lovely adding a notable improvement to whites and blacks in the film’s grayscale. Grace Kelly’s dress is brilliant and crisp without blooming out letting you appreciate all of the detailed textures and accents. Blacks are deep and inky with lovely shadow gradience. Image depth is also greatly improved - that iconic sweeping pull-back shot revealing Cooper standing alone in the street is breathtaking. All around a beautiful transfer for a fantastic film. 4.5/5

Curiously the included 1080p Blu-ray doesn’t appear to be a 1:1 repackage of the Olive disc. While I didn’t really spot any notable difference in detail clarity or anything of that nature, it does look to me like the grayscale is a tad brighter. Not blown out or anything, but some of the harder shadows that’d give a little more visual edge to the Olive disc don’t quite pop on the 1080p KLSC disc. Flipping over to the 4K disc, that’s not an issue and I felt that the black levels and grayscale were spot on, and if anything looked better and more nuanced than the Olive disc. And again, it’s something that’s barely noticeable and I really only spotted it because I’ve been staring at these discs for the better part of three days now.

Audio Review

Ranking:

This release of High Noon comes riding into town with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track where if I was a betting man, I’d say is the same mix we heard on the Olive disc from 2016. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. The track sounds fantastic giving plenty of life to the dialog and sound effects while letting Dimitri Tiomkin’s Oscar-winning score and Tex Ritter’s Oscar-winning song full range. Free of any severe or noticeable hiss, pops, or cracks, the mix is clean and clear without issue. 5/5

Special Features

Ranking:

Not content to simply rehash old extra features, KLSC brings over the five featurettes from the Olive disc while adding two of their own new commentary tracks to the show. The five featurettes are essential viewing but these new commentaries are well worth the listen. Film Historian Alan K. Rode delivers a solo commentary that may be a bit more formal than I like, a bit more scripted and prepared, but it’s very informative with enough scene-specific segments that it doesn’t feel like a simple audio essay. Next, Julie Kirgo returns delivering her thoughts on the film with an excellent scene-specific commentary. While Kirgo and Rode cover similar ground they do offer different incites and trivia, enough that they don’t feel redundant and worth picking through.

4K UHD Disc

  • Audio Commentary featuring Alan K. Rode
  • Audio Commentary featuring Julie Kirgo

Blu-ray Disc

  • Audio Commentary featuring Alan K. Rode
  • Audio Commentary featuring Julie Kirgo
  • A Ticking Clock: Featurette (HD 5:54)
  • A Stanley Kramer Production: Featurette (HD 14:01)
  • Imitation of life - The Hollywood Blacklist and High Noon: Featurette (HD 9:28)
  • Oscars and Ulcers - The Production History of High Noon: Featurette (HD 12:03)
  • Uncitizened Kane: Essay 
  • The Making of High Noon: Featurette (SD 22:11)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • KLSC Trailer Gallery
    • The Lives of a Bengal Lancer
    • The Plainsman
    • Beau Geste
    • Unconquered
    • Vera Cruz
    • Man of the West
    • They Came to Cordura

High Noon isn’t just one of the most politically notorious films of Hollywood’s golden era, it just so happens to be one of the best Westerns ever produced. While some may argue that the film isn’t a Western but instead a human Drama about morals, I say phooey to that. A Western can be morally dramatic about human characters and still nestle down beautifully within the genre. It certainly caused a stir in its day and remains widely discussed today, High Noon is nonetheless one hell of a picture. Now on 4K, the show lives on thanks to KLSC with a lovely Dolby Vision transfer that remains authentic to the film's status as a septuagenarian feature. Audio remains spot-on without issue. Archival bonus features return buttressed by two new excellent audio commentaries. If you’re happy with Olive’s 2016 disc, that remains an excellent release, but those eager for an upgrade or aiming for a first-time purchase won’t be disappointed. Highly Recommended 

Order Your Copy of High Noon on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray